Tracyton water commissioners working to eliminate their jobs

More than 30 years ago, Tracyton Water District officials signed a contract to turn its day-to-day operations, maintenance and water supply over to the city of Bremerton Public Works Department.

But for most of the past three decades, the water district has maintained independence. The district’s three commissioners oversee the community’s street lights, the Tracyton Community Hall, two ballfields, a 39-acre watershed and several other small properties.

“It’s all stuff that has nothing to do with water service,” commissioner Timothy Knapp said. “The district was just a paper dragon. It was a mess. We’re just trying to clean it up and turn over the rest to the city of Bremerton.”

To meet the terms of the contract with the city, the water district had to make a number of improvements, including the addition of fire hydrants. The modifications racked up more than $1.6 million in debt, which the commissioners are now attempting to pare down through sale of the district’s properties.

“It has been the intent all along to get the improvements done and to go through with putting up the properties for sale to cover the costs of those improvements,” Commissioner Lee Winterowd said. “Once that’s done, the district will be virtually shut down.

“But now we have fire hydrants, water pressure and a fire insurance rating we didn’t have before.”

Knapp said the district is trying to find appropriate buyers for the ballfields and community hall. Selling the ballfields on Bunker Street could prove difficult, based on an ownership covenant might require them to remain athletic fields.

Port of Tracyton commissioners have expressed interest in obtaining the ballfield complex and the community hall.

“I hope they have good use for a community hall, but we’re not interested in giving it to somebody and getting nothing in return,” Knapp said.

Finding an entity to care for the street lights also could prove difficult.

“If we fold and don’t deal with the lights, we’ll be in the dark,” Knapp said.

Any remaining debt after the property sales will be passed on to Tracyton residents.

“Our goal was to be done before now,” Knapp said. “The water district isn’t serving anybody right now the way it’s supposed to.”

Knapp estimated the district was still two years away from folding, but said work was continuing on the side issues.

“We’re going to clean it up and move on,” Knapp said.

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